Henderson Native Helps Students Learn & Schools Share Stories with Striv Inc.
It’s high-school basketball season across Nebraska with hundreds of games occurring each weekend in gyms filled with the smell of concession-stand popcorn and the sounds of basketball shoes squeaking on the floor.
This is the time to shine for players who have practiced shooting drills and passing skills for hours on end. But, behind the scenes, other students are learning to shine as well with the help of a rural Nebraska entrepreneur.
Taylor Siebert, owner of Striv Inc. based in Henderson, has found his niche in rural Nebraska with a business that combines his passion for teaching and sharing stories through technology.
His company contracts with schools to livestream games and other school events, and he and his staff give students valuable job skills by teaching them how to use the technology to become their own broadcast experts.
“I’m very passionate about sharing good stories and now teaching kids how to do that,” Siebert said. “I know I’m in the place where I need to be. I know my why.”
Siebert grew up in Henderson, population 995, and graduated from Heartland Community Schools (Henderson and Bradshaw combined) in 2003. He then pursued a business degree at Doane College in Crete, where he also played basketball. After college, he and his new bride worked in Colorado for a few years before settling back in Henderson.
That’s when Siebert realized he had the entrepreneurship bug. His dad and grandfather owned an insurance business in Henderson, and his mom started an embroidery business. So, it made sense that Siebert would follow in their footsteps with his own business.
He initially started selling and installing attic insulation. To satisfy his interest in technology and social media, he also started a side business, the Heartland Beat, an online news source for the Henderson and Bradshaw areas with in-depth coverage of Heartland School sports.
“Through that, I started working closely with the school and discovered livestreaming,” Siebert said. Livestreaming allows content to be delivered in real time as it happens, similar to live television coverage of a sports event.
In 2011, he approached Heartland Schools to see if they would pay him to attend all the school events and livestream them throughout the year. The superintendent agreed.
He soon realized that other schools might need the same service. He did more research and purchased the technology and bandwidth to offer this service. While he wanted to expand livestreaming to other schools, he realized he would have to clone himself to make that happen.
A conversation with Superintendent Norm Yoder gave him the idea for a solution.
“He told me if you want to work with schools, you need to make it educational and get students involved,” Siebert said. “A lightbulb when off in my head. That made sense to me. I would go into all the schools and train the students to do what I do. When I explained that to the schools, it was a homerun to them that I would actually come in and train their students and get their students involved.”
Launching Striv TV
Siebert officially launched Striv in February 2012 and visited with schools throughout the following summer to gain his first clients: York, Aurora, Nebraska Christian, High Plains and Thayer Central. Now, in the current 2017-18 school year, Striv TV (www.striv.tv) provides services to 83 schools ranging from large metro schools like Millard West and Omaha Central to small schools like Bayard, Winnebago and Harvard.
The livestreaming has expanded beyond sporting events to include concerts, graduations, pep rallies or class presentations that parents might miss during the middle of the day. Communities have come to rely on the livestreaming capabilities now available at their schools.
“We are providing a service to schools that they are providing to their community for people who aren’t physically able to go to games or events,” Siebert said.
High Plains Principal Cameron Hudson said they initially partnered with Striv to allow parents, grandparents and community members to follow events and activities at school. The school had tried other livestreaming services, but with Taylor’s location nearby and all the help he provided, it made sense to switch.
Schools pay Striv a flat fee (ranging from under $2,000-$3,000 annually) to livestream the programs. Schools also might have small start-up fees to purchase a laptop computer and camera if they don’t have that technology already.
About a year and a half into the Striv TV venture, Siebert met Tony Chapman, who also shared his interest in high school sports and was passionate about creating stories and content around those sports. Together, they launched Striv Sports (www.strivsports.com), a website that features podcasts, videos and articles about participating Striv schools. Stories include profiles of coaches and players, season wrap-up podcasts and player interviews and stories.
Eric Allgood, who worked for 11 years in the radio industry in North Central Kansas, has since joined the team at Striv TV and helps produce professional podcasts and other features for the online resource.
“That’s been great for us,” Siebert said of Striv TV. “The motive behind that is to create content to show students that they can create the same kind of content. It’s great to show some other types of stories, other than streaming, that people could share on social media.”
For Siebert, who once considered a career in teaching, working with students has been one of his favorite aspects of his business.
“That’s been the core,” Siebert said. “Obviously, we been focused on streaming and doing content, but what’s remained constant is our training and support to the students. It’s been huge. We can’t do it without them. If we don’t have the students and staff, then our product isn’t what it is to the consumer. It’s a joint effort. Everyone understands that we are trying to share their school’s story.”
The teaching portion of Striv Inc. is called Striv U (www.strivu.com). The website features blogs, online tutorials and videos that teach students how to livestream an event, play-call a game, edit photos in Photoshop, how to use Snapchat and Instagram to share stories, and much more.
Siebert travels to schools throughout the year offering his support and advice. And, he and his staff offer full-day workshops in the spring and fall at locations across the state that students and staff can attend to learn more.
Schools can structure the learning however it works best for them. Some schools offer a class in which students are graded and required to perform livestreaming work as part of their assignments. Other schools offer after-school clubs with staff support or allow students to participate as an independent study.
Sandy Creek schools offer the class as part of a career pathways program, and students visit the Striv Inc. offices in Henderson every other week to learn more.
Students are learning valuable skills in social media, story-telling, video production, journalism, photography and graphic design. These types of learning opportunities would likely not be available at many small schools without Striv.
“We want to help students, and we want to give them new opportunities,” Siebert said. “That passion comes from me and not having those opportunities in high school. It’s been amazing for us to see these kids who have never had this opportunity before take ahold of this opportunity.”
High Plains Principal Cameron Hudson said his school offers the Striv curriculum as a class. They limit the class to nine students, and it’s always full. The students learn valuable skills such as livestreaming, graphic design, video editing and production, conducting interviews, lighting and camera angles. They attend Striv conferences and workshops and enter contests so they are continually learning. Students in the class air a weekly 15-minute news broadcast that features teacher and student interviews, public service announcements, upcoming events and sports recaps.
“It’s just another avenue for a kid or student who has a passion for something to be able to learn,” Hudson said. “And, it carries don’t beyond high school. We’ve had two students who have gone into broadcasting school who I don’t think would have done that had we not had this program. It paid off for our kids big time.”
And if students don’t go into broadcasting or video production, they are learning valuable skills such as time management (getting scrips prepared weekly) and are getting out of their comfort zones to speak in front of an audiences.
Plus, the kids are creating a quality product that helps tell the story of their small school of 230 kids.
“This is another way that we can share our story, and that is so important to our district,” he said.
Students who might not have ever attended a sporting event are “working” these events. These students are getting noticed and complimented by community members who hear the broadcasts.
“I talk to schools all the time who are basically creating their own media companies with their schools,” Siebert said. “We are there to help support it and help them in any way possible.”
Future of Striv
Besides Siebert, Striv now employs three other full-time staff: Eric Allgood, who moved to Henderson with his family to join Striv Inc.; Sara Brune and Austin Penfield, who work out of Striv Inc.’s new Lincoln office. Although it was a difficult decision to open an office in Lincoln, Sibert said he realized that he needed to consider the option.
“Not every millennial wants to move to Henderson, Nebraska,” he said. “I came to the realization that we could have team members in different locations.”
He also contracts with a new tech start-up company, Apt Interactive in Crete, to offer tech support to students and schools a few nights a week. The owners are former Striv students.
“They’ve done it, so now they are helping other schools with it,” Siebert said.
Siebert’s future plans include adding more schools to the Striv Inc. family and developing a curriculum to further streamline educational efforts.
He also recently formed a partnership with his friend Ben Pankonin to promote Class Intercom, a social media tool to help schools create, manage and administer their social media channels. It allows students, teachers and administrators to collaborate in delivering social content.
Keys to a Successful Business
Siebert is thriving in rural Nebraska creating new businesses while teaching and helping students at the same time. But, he said, he couldn’t do this alone.
He gleaned knowledge from many others, including his dad and a mentor Jon Ruybalid, an attorney who worked in Henderson and is a family friend. Siebert sought his advice on many occasions.
“I can’t thank him enough for his time and mentorship and helping me structure and model the company and being able to bounce ideas off of,” Siebert said. “I don’t know if it would have worked out if he wasn’t’ part of the process.”
He also credits his excellent customer service and quick response times to helping his business be successful. He always answers his phone, text messages and emails.
“I didn’t know any different,” Siebert said. “I was just doing what I thought was the right thing to do. A lot of businesses don’t do this. It’s what we’ve done. We’ve always been there for our schools.”
Chris Ericson, Technology Manager and Head Volleyball at York Public School said Striv Sports has been impressed with Striv’s customer service and said the company provides more than streaming.
“Taylor and company are invested in our students just as much as they are in the company,” Ericson said. “They provide instant support when issues arise so that those who rely on Striv can view the productions. I can’t count how many times they have been on-site showing us new features, setting up productions for us, covering events when our help is running short, or for problem solving. These are all things that other services don’t begin to touch.”
For more information…
965 N. Main Street, Henderson, NE 68371